Smith-Wade-El and Hill-Evans introduce bill to expand PTRR Program in PA

HARRISBURG, March 14 – State Reps. Izzy Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster, and Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, on Monday introduced legislation (H.B. 389) to expand the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program in Pennsylvania by equalizing income levels, increasing rebate amounts and raising the highest income bracket for homeowners and renters.

“It has become too hard to afford a home in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Smith-Wade-El said. “For many of our senior homeowners and renters, the place in which they live is a legacy of work, life, and love, and we have an obligation to protect them and that legacy by helping them stay in their homes.

“Older Pennsylvanians in Lancaster and across the Commonwealth are struggling to pay for basic necessities like food and rent. Despite rising inflation and cost-of-living increases, PTRR’s income limits, rebate amounts and other provisions have not been modified to correspond to these economic changes, resulting in fewer people qualifying for the program and the program rebates failing to provide the necessary financial assistance. 

“In particular, the PTRR Program has too long discriminated against renters, saying that they deserve less support than homeowners. What we’re going to do differently with this legislation is make sure that all of our seniors and all of our neighbors with disabilities have the support they need to stay in their homes.

“The changes Chairwoman Hill-Evans and I propose would reform the PTRR Program by equalizing the income levels, increasing rebate amounts, and raising the highest income bracket for homeowners and renters. If we act now to expand PTRR, we can preserve this crucial support for thousands of seniors who would otherwise lose eligibility next year because their Social Security cost-of-living adjustments will push them above the eligibility threshold.”

Smith-Wade-El and Hill-Evans said that, currently, the highest available rebate is $650 for homeowners and renters with up to $8,000 in household income, with lower rebates available for those with higher incomes; while homeowners with income up to $35,000 qualify for a property tax rebate, renters can only receive a rent rebate if their income does not exceed $15,000.

If enacted, the legislation would have the same income brackets and increase the rebate amounts for homeowners and renters: those with income below $15,000 would be eligible for a $1,300 rebate; those with an income of $15,001-$25,000 would be eligible for a $975 rebate, and those with an income of $25,001-$45,000 would be eligible for a $650 rebate.

“Significantly, the legislation would extend the highest income bracket from $35,000 to $45,000 to match today’s cost of living and so provide thousands more Pennsylvanians the support they deserve from the PTRR,” Smith-Wade-El said.

“None of our vulnerable neighbors deserve to lose the roof over their head – that’s why we must act quickly to expand the housing protections offered by this program,” Hill-Evans said. “It’s the right thing to do, especially when you consider the current economic climate and how long it’s been since we’ve adjusted the program’s income parameters.”

“How many of our grandmothers and grandfathers are being pushed out of their homes by rising living costs?” Smith-Wade-El asked. “Our legislation would help expand the safety net so that senior and disabled members of our community can keep their roofs over their heads.”

Smith-Wade-El said his sense of urgency to reform the PTRR program is shared by Gov. Josh Shapiro, who last week in his inaugural budget address proposed expanding the PTRR Program by raising income eligibility caps to $45,000 for both homeowners and renters, indexing eligibility caps to inflation, and increasing maximum rebates to $1,000. These changes, the first major update since 2006, would expand program eligibility to 173,000 individuals and increase assistance to an additional 398,000 people.

“We look forward to partnering with the governor to expand PTRR so that our vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities in Pennsylvania can stay in their homes,” the legislators said.

The bill had previously been introduced by State Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., in the 2021-22 legislative session as H.B. 614.

Residents with inquiries can call Smith-Wade-El’s district office at  717-283-4218 or toll free at 833-787-1792 or Hill-Evans' district office at (717) 848-9595.